Share of internet traffic

Overall ecosystem

Traffic share is the most revealing indicator of the economic significance of online platforms. The 50 top online platforms, representing an average of over 60% of traffic share across the EU Member States, achieved worldwide revenues of almost USD 340 billion (EUR 276 billion) in 2018, and employed almost 600,000 people. As of December 2020, Facebook is the leader in the social media market in Europe, with a 77.5% share of traffic, while Google is the leading search engine, with a 93.6% share of traffic.

Figure 1. Traffic share of social media platforms in Europe – December 2020

Source: Statcounter

Figure 2. Traffic share of search engines in Europe – December 2020

Source: Statcounter

Sectoral disturbance

Online platforms are active in a variety of sectors, in particular e-commerce, apps and software, social media, financial services, transportation and hospitality. Among these sectors, the transportation and hotel industries have been disrupted not only by the platform economy but also by the sharing economy, in which online platforms facilitate operations and services between individuals. According to Statista, in Europe, the revenue in the holiday rentals segment, which comprises private accommodation bookings made online is currently projected to reach 21 billion euros in 2021, with an expected 18% user penetration.

In the travel and hospitality sector, on average 29.9% of hotel bookings were performed via online platforms in 2019 in Europe. Among the online booking agencies, the leader is with 67.7% of bookings in Europe.

Figure 3. Relative share of bookings made via major OTAs in Europe in 2019, %

Source: Statista (Hotrec)

Figure 4. OTA share of hotel overnight bookings in Europe in 2019, %

Source: Statista (Hotrec)

In the transportation sector, the ride-hailing segment that covers online platforms and apps bringing together passengers and drivers (e.g. Uber) is one of the fastest growing areas in online services. In Europe, the revenue of ride-hailing companies is expected to reach EUR 39 billion in 2021 with 38.3% YoY growth. According to Statista, the number of users is expected to amount to 156 million in 2021 with 0.9% YoY growth.

According to a 2019 survey from Deloitte, across the selected countries over 20% of respondents use ride-hailing services, with more than 40% in Spain and the UK. These countries also have the highest rates of frequent use with 11% of respondents using these services once a week or more.

Figure 5. Share of European respondents who use ride-hailing services (October 2019)

Source: 2020 Global Automative Consumer Study, Deloitte (retrieved from Statista)

The European market for ride hailing is quite diversified, in part due to local regulations and taxi unions that have prevented Uber from monopolising the market and enabled European alternatives to grow. Although Uber still holds a market share around 60%, other applications are available and popular, such as Estonia’s Bolt, Germany’s Free Now, Israel’s Gett and Spain’s Cabify.

Figure 6. Europe taxi apps market share (2020)

Sources: Statista, TSci-Research, Yelowsoft (retrieved from Business of Apps)

Similar to worldwide trends, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, European taxi app revenues have decreased from USD 16.6  billion in 2019 to USD 9.9 billion in 2020, although the number of users has increased from 146 million to 150 million in the same period.

Figure 7. Europe taxi app revenue and number of users (2015-2020)

Sources: Crunchbase, Statista, Uber (retrieved from Business of Apps)

Trade flows

Serving as an intermediary between businesses and end users, platforms mediate large trade flows inside and between countries (e.g. sales and purchases via online platforms). Indicators on the volume of trade mediated by platforms help us to understand the role platforms play in facilitating international trade.

This area is a multi-sided market, with platforms serving as an intermediary between end users and business users. For end users, it can be measured in terms of online shopping via platforms.

In 2019 the UK was the biggest B2C e-commerce in Europe with over 200 billion euros spent on online purchases and accounting for almost 8% of the country’s GDP. The second place was taken by France (over 100 billion e-commerce revenue and 4.3% of GDP), followed by Germany (almost 60 billion revenue and 1.7% of GDP).

Figure 8. Market size of B2C e-commerce in selected European countries (2019)

Source: Statista (Ecommerce Foundation)

According to the survey (see next figure), the highest consumer spending on online shopping was in Germany (over 52 billion euros on 2019), followed by the UK (47 billion euros).

Figure 9. Consumer spending on buying products online in selected European countries, 2018 and 2019 (in billion euros)

Source: Statista (PostNord)

Note: 15-79 years; All that have shopped online; Online interview

The COVID-19 crisis and related lockdown measures have led more consumers to shop online. According to surveys with consumers, about 10% of respondents shopped online for the first time due to the COVID-19 crisis, and 37% of consumers have considered shifting to online shopping after COVID-19. More people expect to make a portion of their purchases online post-COVID-19 than before in France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

From a business perspective, several areas can capture the importance of the online platform economy: for example, the number and share of enterprises that are engaged in online trade via online platforms; their revenues from online sales; and the role of online platforms in cross-border trade.

Data shows that enterprises are increasingly engaging with the online economy. In 2019, almost 20% of enterprises in the EU27 conducted online sales. In certain countries, more than 30% of enterprises are engaged in online sales. These include Ireland (36%), Denmark (34%) and Sweden (31%). In terms of the actual number of enterprises selling online, the leaders are France, Spain, Germany and Italy (though Italy has one of the lowest shares of enterprises selling online).

Figure 10. Enterprises selling online (at least 1% of turnover): share of all enterprises, 2019

Source: Eurostat

Figure 11. Enterprises selling online (at least 1% of turnover): number of enterprises, 2019

Source: Eurostat

The share and number of enterprises selling online have increased in 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis and related lockdown measures, which led many companies and retailers to move their activities and sales online to be able to continue their operations.

According to Eurostat, in 2018 18% of the turnover of EU enterprises came from e-sales, including 7% from websales and 11% from electronic data interchange (EDI) type. Out of the 7% turnover from websales, 6% were generated via the companies’ own website and 1% through marketplaces. Although more enterprises in the EU are currently selling via their own website/ app, the importance and usage of online platforms is growing. Italy, Germany, and France have the largest number of enterprises selling via marketplaces. During the COVID-19 crisis, the closure of physical outlets has boosted the use of online marketplaces which enabled small entrepreneurs to pivot quickly to reach demand.

Figure 12. E-sales via marketplaces and own website/ app: proportion of enterprises, 2019

Source: Eurostat

Figure 13. Websales via marketplaces and via own website/ app in 2019: turnover in millions of euros

Source: Eurostat

When it comes to the distribution of trade, the majority of enterprises selling online are mainly focused on domestic trade. In 2019 on average across the EU 27 countries, 19% of all enterprises performed electronic sales to their own country, 9% to the other EU Members States, and 5% to the rest of the world. Ireland is the leader by the share of enterprises selling online, with 38% of all enterprises selling online domestically, 18% to the other EU Members States, and 12% to the rest of the world. By the number of enterprises selling online to other EU countries the top countries are Germany, Italy, and France.

Figure 14. Enterprises selling electronically to own country, other EU countries, and rest of world in 2019 (number of enterprises)

Source: Eurostat

Note: countries are sorted in descending order from left to right based on the number of enterprises selling to other EU countries

When comparing by company size, according to Eurobarometer 486, in 2020 11% of large companies were selling goods online to other EU countries compared to 4% of SMEs.